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Florida Panthers’ arena now BB&T Center

The Panthers’ arena has a new name.


Opened as the National Car Rental Center in 1998, the Sunrise arena will undergo another name change as it was officially rebranded the BB&T Center on Monday. This name change, unlike the others, was due to a takeover and not a company moving on.

BB&T, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., acquired South Florida’s BankAtlantic in July and will officially rebrand most branches next month.

As expected, BB&T took over the naming rights; what wasn’t expected was the Panthers’ signing the bank to a 10-year contract to keep its name on the Broward County-owned building.

That means the BB&T name — which stands for Branch Banking & Trust — should remain on the building longer than its predecessors. BB&T also has its name on a minor-league baseball park in its hometown in North Carolina.

“We’re thrilled,” Panthers president Michael Yormark said in a statement.

The arena was known as the National Car Rental Center from 1998 until it became the Office Depot Center in 2002. BankAtlantic took over in 2005 — just after the 2004-05 NHL season was lost to an owner’s lockout.

Coincidentally, another lockout is expected to take place when the collective bargaining agreement expires on Saturday.

BB&T hoped to have a huge coming-out party when the Panthers host their season opener against the Lightning on Oct. 13. That game is not expected to be played. Opening Night at the BB&T Center precedes the official conversion of BankAtlantic customers on Oct. 15.

Some BankAtlantic branches already have BB&T signage — although they are covered up by BankAtlantic banners. The large BankAtlantic Center sign on the front of the arena has been removed and the ATM at the Panthers’ training facility in Coral Springs is now BB&T. The additional signage at the arena will be changed by next month.

Injury update

Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson needed shoulder surgery after being injured last week. The team said the procedure was done at Doctor’s Hospital in Miami on Thursday.

Gudbranson, 20, played in 72 games with the Panthers as a rookie last season. He was expected to open the season — because of the lockout — with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Although the Panthers did not specify a timetable for his return, Panthers winger Jack Skille said he was off the ice for 3 1/2 months after he had shoulder surgery last season. Based on Skille’s timetable, Gudbranson wouldn’t return to the ice until January.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit,” Skille said Monday. “Erik has a really good head on his shoulders, and he’ll do the right thing. You don’t have to tell him much. He’ll work hard at coming back.”